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Want to Start a Medical Transcriptionist Career? Read This

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Medical transcriptionists (MTs) play an important role in the healthcare industry ensuring that patient records are legible and easy to understand.

If you have a knack for paying close attention to detail and consider yourself a self-starter, you might be able to make a decent living while working from the comfort of your own home as a medical transcriptionist.

At the same time, it’s not exactly the best time to launch a career in medical transcription – yes, despite the booming healthcare industry.

Medical Transcriptionist Job Description: What Does an MT Do?

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The job of an MT has drastically evolved over the past few decades.

In the early days, MTs had to type their notes into charts on typewriters while listening to recordings of the doctor’s own notes. A computer later replaced that typewriter and the workplace shifted from doctor offices to home or remote offices.

Depending on the job, an MT might listen to a doctor’s recorded dictation of a session with a patient. This can vary depending on the type of doctor you’re working for whether it be an OBGYN, pediatrician, oncologist, family practice, or surgeon.

These days, transcriptionists should expect to function more as editors for speech-to-text programs. Many doctors use programs like Dragon dictation for their notes so your job as an MT would be to clean up that text for errors.

In fact, you might find a job transcribing notes from multiple disciplines on any given day. A lot of doctors outsource their transcription work to third party companies so you’ll need a broad knowledge of many medical fields.

A good MT should have a thorough understanding of precise medical terms. The doctor will rattle off the specifics of his or her visit with a patient and your job is to type that into something readable.

You’ll also have a duty to uphold integrity and patient privacy since you’ll be responsible for managing personal medical information on patients.

If you want to make it in the medical transcription field, you’ll need specific skills to put you ahead of other job candidates.

Important Skills and Personality Traits

Many long-time transcription workers have found themselves out of work in recent years due to technological advances and speech-to-text dictation services so going above and beyond is crucial for standing out in the field.

  • Technology: You’ll need to know how to use various computer programs. Get familiar with Dragon dictation and similar programs as well as word-processing programs and the standard Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system.
  • Analysis and Critical Thinking: You’ll need good analyzation skills to spot discrepancies and mistakes. Research skills are a must as well for fact checking.
  • Listening and Processing: Expect to function like a human computer. If you’re the type of person who frequently misses key plot points in movies, you can forget succeeding as a medical transcriptionist.
  • Self-starter: You’ll need to work under extra tight time constraints and meet lots of deadlines. Since many jobs require you to work from home, this makes time management even more important
  • Writing and Composition: Doctors are not English professors or journalists. You might not realize this until you have to transcribe their sometimes-haphazard speech. That makes the job of an MT so crucial.


Medical Transcriptionist Salary

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the median salary of a medical transcriptionist was $35,250 per year as of May 2017. This equates to an hourly wage of nearly $17 per hour – not too shabby.

It’s important to keep in mind that the lowest 10 percent of MTs made just $21,000 per year. Although transcription jobs tend to require minimal secondary education and extensive medical knowledge, it’s difficult to find a job offering a robust wage as a newbie.

Not to mention, these figures probably only reflect MTs employed full time through offices. Many transcriptionist jobs these days offer per-line payment. Someone entering the industry can expect to make just 4.5 cents per line of text – which will likely involve editing voice-to-text dictation.

Technological advances have caused medical transcription salaries to plateau over the past few years – if not significantly drop – especially when compared to other healthcare careers.

Working Hours and Environment

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If you have a thorough knowledge of medical terms and would like to work from home, you should probably consider looking for medical transcription jobs.

Most jobs in the field offer remote positions to save money on office space. It’s definitely the most convenient medical position to complete from home.

In this case, your working hours would vary depending when the dictation comes in. You’ll need to transcribe the text – accurately – as quickly as possible. Working fast is the key to earning the biggest paycheck from home.

On the other hand, you might find a job working on-site at a hospital or doctor’s office. In this case, you’ll probably have a set schedule that involves an hourly wage or monthly salary.

Although most MTs work full time, a large minority work part-time. This leaves room for plenty of flexibility when determining your own working hours and schedule.

Medical Transcriptionist Schools, Training, and Certifications

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Years ago, medical transcriptionists were typically trained on the job site. These days, however, doctors, hospitals, and third-party employers tend to favor transcriptionists with some type of secondary education.

Although there aren’t any medical transcriptionist schools per se, you should have no trouble finding a program at your local community college or vocational school -- or even online. These programs typically last a year or less.

Your training will involve extensive medical knowledge covering topics like anatomy, risk management, legalities, terminology, and healthcare. Expect a strong emphasis on composition and the English language – it’s your job to make everything readable.

Becoming certified could give you leverage over other job applicants. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity handles various certifications such as Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (previously, Registered MT) and Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (previously, Certified MT).

Job Outlook and Career Advancement

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Here’s where things start to get murky.

Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects medical transcription jobs to actually decline by 3% – at least until 2026.

Many transcription employers have started hiring English-speaking transcriptionists in other countries like India to reduce labor costs. To top it off, speech-to-text dictation services like Dragon have made a large portion of the traditional transcriptionist’s job obsolete.

A lot of transcriptionists have found themselves out of work in recent years due to these changes – so employment opportunities are tight without any additional skills, knowledge, or other industry leverage.

Most medical transcription jobs these days involve editing this dictation rather than actual transcribing.

Again, unfortunately, this has led to a less than optimal pay shift. Instead of a monthly salary, expect to make your money per-line if you’re working at home.

However, medical transcriptionists with secure jobs at prestigious hospitals or several years of experience might have more luck adapting to changing labor trends and keeping up with the curve balls.

Those interested in entering the medical field may want to consider a more secure healthcare field since the entire industry is expected to grow in coming years. Medical coding and billing could be a viable alternative for anyone considering transcription.

Alternatives to Medical Transcription

Now isn’t a great time to enter the medical transcription field but that doesn’t mean you can’t seek out a rewarding and profitable career in the healthcare industry.

The careers below have a great job outlook for the next few years, require minimal secondary education, and boast decent incomes.

  • Medical Coding and Billing: You would learn extensive medical codes for conditions and procedures and bill insurance companies accordingly. You might even be able to find a job working remotely.
  • Medical Records and Health Information Technician: You’d be responsible for organizing and managing patient data either on paper or electronically. The BLS expects jobs to grow much faster than average at 13% until 2026 and the median salary for this career is currently $39,180 per year.
  • Pharmacy Technician: You can’t work from home, but this is a great job with a secure future.

How to Find Medical Transcriptionist Jobs from Home

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Looking for medical transcriptionist jobs from home can open up your career possibilities.

Many transcriptionists who have left the career after several decades of work may have had trouble keeping up with the changing technology and remote employment.

Several companies like Ascend Healthcare Systems, Eight Crossing, Fast Chart, iMedX, M*Modal, and Nuance Transcription Services happily hire qualified applicants for remote employment.

Check out their websites and get familiar with the skills you’ll need to succeed in the industry.

The Bottom Line

You certainly have some challenges ahead of you if you’re interested in becoming an MT.

With jobs on the decline, it might be better to check out another healthcare career in coding and billing or records keeping. These jobs may allow you to work from home, like medical transcription jobs, but offer much more in the way of job security.

There’s never been a better time to enter the healthcare industry. It’s just important to pick the right career for long-term stability.